Playing with Matches
Bantam, July 10 2012, $15.00
In False River, Mississippi, white tweener Clea Shine is raised by her black “Aunt” Jerusha Lovemore though her biological mom lives nearby. While she loves Jerusha and the rest of her “family”, Clea wishes her mother would spend time with her and stop sleeping with the townsfolk and the guards at the prison. At school, Clea proves academically superior to the other students, but learns the hard way that she is an outcast due to her being white and her mom’s behavior. Finally realizing her mother not only abandoned her but will never love her; a heartbroken and traumatized Clea commits an irreversible act by lighting a fire to her mother’s house. The subsequent tragedy has the twelve years old child running away.
Two decades later Clea is the mother of two children and a memoir author. A storm destroys her home at a time when she learns her husband is cheating on her. Once again distraught and feeling unanchored belonging nowhere; she comes home to the welcome of her beloved Aunt Jerusha and a chance to finally confront the ghosts that haunt her as they have when she first lived in False River.
This is a powerful character driven Southern drama starring a sad person who suffers from a belief that she does not belong anywhere as no one except her “Aunt” accepts her (think of Maslow’s Hierarchy’s third step Love/Belonging. The first part of the insightful storyline is one of the best internal musings of the year; while the second half is also well written, but not quite as dramatic. Although the ending seems abrupt, fans will appreciate this strong character study as the adult is still the child.